CedarCreek Church releases CD of worship songsWritten by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
A dozen years ago, Jeff Harris visited CedarCreek Church, took a seat and was shocked to hear the band open with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”
“I’m like, ‘Seriously? Church? Boston? What is this place?’” Harris recalled.
Hearing the classic rock song in church resonated with Harris — it was the first song he had learned to play on guitar — and it wasn’t long before he became an integral part of CedarCreek’s band.
The nondenominational Christian church, founded in 1995, has become the most-attended in Northwest Ohio, with 10,000 people at services on four campuses. Much of that success can be attributed to the high standards it sets for its music and messages.
Last month, CedarCreek released a CD, “The Call,” featuring six Christian worship songs (no secular rockers on this disc) written and performed by the church’s arts pastors and musicians. It reached No. 22 on the iTunes chart for religious music.
The album was recorded in Harris’ MadSam Studio, a professional recording studio in the basement of his Perrysburg home.
Senior Pastor Lee Powell said the CD gives the church’s musicians an additional way to use their talents.
“It’s been a labor of love for all of our arts pastors, for musicians like Jeff,” Powell said. “It gives them an outlet for their creativity and it’s really an opportunity for them to display their talents and also to draw people into a closer walk with God.”
“The Call” is only the second disc released by CedarCreek, after the 2003 album “First Light.”
But Harris sees it as the first step in a renewed effort to record the church’s singers, songwriters and musicians, echoing Powell’s observation that he wants to provide a new channel for their creativity.
“We have some unbelievable artists at CedarCreek,” Harris said, “and people who, if they wanted to, could probably go and do something on a national level. But these are people who have a heart for the local church and for one reason or another want to be in this area; they want to be home.”
Harris counts himself in that group. A gifted musician, he started playing guitar at age 7 and dreamed of being a studio musician.
“I wanted to be a session guy, a session musician. To me, that was the epitome of awesome. Those guys are like the best of the best,” he said.
Instead of moving to New York or Los Angeles, however, the graduate of Perrysburg High School and Bowling Green State University stayed in his hometown and works as assistant vice president of technical services for HCR ManorCare. His successful career has allowed him to stay in his hometown, raise a family and pursue his musical interests on the side.
“I’m 45 years old and the last three years have been the most rewarding years musically I’ve ever had,” Harris said.
He has filled in on guitar with Sanctus Real, the Grammy-nominated Christian rock band from Toledo, about 20 times, including for a Toledo concert in September and a three-week tour in March.
He has toured with other Christian bands and enjoys recording sessions with other artists in his home studio.
“None of us wants to be rock stars,” Harris said. “But for me, personally, music is oxygen. I just have to be doing it somehow, somewhere. I can’t not do it.”
He gets energized when he thinks there may be someone new to CedarCreek who will hear a song and be inspired just like he was 12 years ago.
Jason Smithers is an example of someone whose life was changed by CedarCreek’s music.
“I was playing in a local punk band, back in 2000, and [CedarCreek’s band] played a U2 song and I just instantly connected with the musicians,” he said. “There was a genuineness in what they were delivering behind the message.”
Smithers eventually joined CedarCreek’s staff as an arts pastor, leaving last month with a team from CedarCreek that is starting a new church in Melbourne, Fla.
“Everybody’s got a story like that and it never ceases to amaze me,” Harris said. “That’s why I have to remind myself every time I go on stage to not go through the motions. This is an unbelievable gift and opportunity, and you never know who is going to be the next [Jason Smithers] sitting in the audience — that service, that moment, that song — who is somehow going to be inspired to go do something amazing. That’s pretty powerful to me. That’s a pretty cool thing.”
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality in the Toledo area.
Tags: Boston, Bowling Green State University, CedarCreek, Christian church, Church, Florida, Grammy-nominated, HCR ManorCare, los Angeles, MadSam Studio, Melboure, New York, Perrysburg, Perrysburg High School, Senior Pastor Lee Powell